Ritesh K Srivastava
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections is all about four time chief Minister of Gujarat and BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
The meteoric rise of the 63-year-old up the political ladder is an incredible story considering his humble beginnings as the son of a small time tea vendor. Despite his image of being a highly polarising figure, Modi is inarguably the tallest and the strongest of all the prime ministerial hopefuls, including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Having started as an errand runner for the RSS (BJP’s parent organisation), Modi has surely come a long way and his political career is now on the way to reach its pinnacle. Modi’s phenomenal rise in the national political scene, his secretive personal life, his Gujarat model of development, his charismatic personality as well as his controversial past - all makes him a curious case for discussion for his admirers and critics alike.
While the man is praised for his love for the cutting-age technologies, his economic policies and vision, he also faces flak for over Human Development Index numbers in Gujarat and the post-Godhra riots. He is seen as an authoritarian, uncompromising and an aggressive leader but those close to him say that Modi is an extremely charismatic person, warm and effusive. His connection with the people, especially youth is tremendous, for many a role model.
Modi is known for his fiery speeches and excellent oratory skills. He holds a reputation of being a workaholic and has no single case of corruption against him. He often indulges in some theatrics to sell his ideas and send his message across to his supporters effectively. He is believed to have borrowed his half-sleeved knee-length kurta style from yesteryears Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna.
The clout of Modi began to grow after he delivered his state to his party for the fourth time in a row in 2012. NaMo wave, which is now progagated as having engulfed the country, started creating ripples when Modi began his Sadbhavana Mission in September 2011 - the first step on his march to Delhi. He wanted to be seen as a inclusive leader.
Drawn to politics in his early teens as a member of the RSS, he has always been a fighter all his life. Partnering with Shankersingh Vaghela in the beginning, Modi worked extremely hard in preparing a strong cadre base of the BJP. As BJP grew stronger in Gujarat, Modi also moved up the political ladder and became the party`s General Secretary.
The workaholic and loyal `sevak` was then handpicked by party veteran LK Advani in 2001 to give a direction to the election campaign in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Modi struck gold when the turbulent political situation in Gujarat forced his party to send him to the state as chief minister on October 7, 2001, replacing Keshubhai Patel. Though he was brought in to fill the vacuum, the BJP was initially not keen on having him at the forefront due his lack of experience in governance. But he told the party high command that he was either "going to be fully responsible for Gujarat or not at all". Since then, there has been no looking back for this man as he continued to silence his opponents both within the party and outside, besides touching several political milestones in his career.
In the 2012 Gujarat assembly elections, the BJP won 115 out of the 182 seats and Modi became CM for the fourth time. The following year in March, he was appointed as member to the BJP Parliamentary Board - the highest decision-making body of the party. He was also nominated as the chief of party`s Central Election Committee.
In the meantime, Modi’s rift with the VHP came to fore when he ordered the demolition of 200 illegal temples in Gandhinagar. He has faced criticism for his autocratic way of functioning, for silencing his competitors and twisting facts to suit political motives. Modi’s rift with his mentor Advani created headlines when the latter resigned after the former was appointed as the chairman of the national campaign committee. But the BJP leadership this time decided to make him its face for the 2014 campaign. The friction riased its head again recently when Advani went public against his re-nomination from Gandhinagar seat. The old war house beat a hasty retreat after the RSS leaned on him.
As the PM candidate of the BJP, Modi’s march to Delhi will depend on BJP’s performance in bigger states like UP, MP, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Karnataka etc. The party is expected to do well in the BJP-ruled states like MP, Goa, Rajasthan and Punjab and is likely to get good number of seats in Delhi, where it recently emerged as the single largest party, and in UP, where the Muzaffarnagar riots seem to have divided the voters on communal lines.
The party has almost no presence in the northeastern states, however the party hopes to spring some surprises in this elections. Lingayat strongman BS Yeddyurappa’s re-entry into the party fold and coming closer of B Sreeramulu’s BSR will surely work in favour of the NDA in Karnataka.
In Bihar, the reputation of CM Nitish Kumar and his party Janata Dal (U) has suffered badly after it parted ways with the BJP, attack on Modi’s rally and the recent RJD rebellion drama. Kumar has virtually been sidelined with former ally BJP going all guns blazing to win majority of the 40 seats in the state. Tthe surprise entry of Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP into the NDA after 12 years and the Dalit leader’s approval of Modi’s PM candidature has further complicated matters for Nitish..
In Odisha, where former ally and ruling party BJD led by CM Naveen Patnaik has an upper hand, the BJP is confident of winning good number of seats. The main opposition party has for the first time entered an alliance with some regional parties in Tamil Nadu to put up a three-way fight with AIADMK and the DMK.
In Andhra Pradesh, where Congress is on the backfoot after the formation of a new state –Telangana – the BJP hopes to spring a surprise in the Seemandhra region where anti-Congress sentiments are at its peak. BJP had supported the cause of Telangana and now aims to extract maximum political advantage from the Telangana region in lieu of its support. But with its former ally TDP joining hands with the Third Front constituent, BJP will have face a multi-cornered contest with Congress, TRS, YSR Congress (Jagan Reddy)and TDP.
Ironically, what was earlier perceived to be a battle between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, has now become a contest between the BJP leader and Arvind Kejriwal of AAP.
Kejriwal, whose popularity has taken a beating since the heady days after AAP put up a specular performance in Delhi Assembly polls, is going all out to place him as the real challenger to Modi. Working on the plan, Kejriwal has challenged Modi in Varanasi.
However, Kejriwal is no match to Modi’s pan-India appeal, his growing clout in the international community, his vast experience as a grass root leader and most importantly given the wide view among citizens of the holy town that they have git an opportunity to send the next prime minister of the country to the Parliament.
They hope Modi as PM would bring about real development in the city bursting at its seams without infrastructure.
While winning the Varanasi seat won’t be a problem for Modi since the task to ensure his victory has been given to his trusted lieutenant and a political hawk Amit Shah, what concerns the BJP is the possibility of AAP winning a handful of seats in urban pockets to make the BJP’s `Mission 272` a tad more difficult task.
The success of Modi’s P2G2 (Pro-people good governance) formula, his emphasis on inclusive growth and holistic development has made him a top favourite of the leaders of the India Inc.
The leaders of India Inc also see a strong leadership in Modi that has a clear roadmap and actionable plans ready for execution. Top business leaders like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani seem to be convinced that for India to come out of its Gross Domestic Paralysis, a visionary and decisive leadership is essential – something which Modi offers.
He has the momentum going for him, the wait is only till May 16.